Sleeping SAA passengers targeted by Hong Kong crime syndicate during flights

South Africa

A notorious Hong Kong in-flight group “organised criminals”, who apparently rob sleeping passengers, are believed to have been behind thefts allegedly perpetrated aboard an SAA flight this week.

On Wednesday, SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali confirmed that Hong Kong police conducted an operation on flight SA 286 from Joburg on Monday, after two passengers complained that money and a watch had been taken while they were sleeping.

SA 286 is the flight on which, according to a January 2016 report by Traveller24, a South African passenger, William Becker, said he had about R30 000 stolen from his luggage while he was sleeping.

Hong Kong police explained in an August 2015 report that they could not rule out the possibility of criminals targeting flights to the China-administered region, following 93 reported robberies totalling about R10.27 million from January 2014 to August 2015.

The source, who asked that her identity be kept anonymous as he frequently uses that route, said the suspects were isolated until the plane reached Hong Kong, at which point several people were arrested. Tlali, however, disputed assertions that passengers were arrested, but confirmed that police had gone aboard the flight once it had landed.

When a search was conducted, however, nothing was found on the suspects. Tlali said the cleaning staff found the missing items, which were on one of the seats. As a result, the suspects could not be arrrested as no evidence was found linking them directly to the incident.

In the 2016 Traveller24 report, Becker told the publication that Hong Kong police had also found nothing on the suspects who had allegedly taken valuables from him.

Asked whether SAA was confident of the security systems aboard its flights, Tlali said: “The airline will not hesitate to impose a ban on any passengers who are reported to have breached its conditions of carriage, as they form part of the rights and responsibilities between the airline and its customers.”


-South China Morning Post/ANA


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